Well this place is pretty spectacular.
Hidden in the valley off highway 84 in northern New Mexico, Ghost Ranch provides people off all ages, backgrounds, and faiths the opportunity to explore the wonders of nature, find their spiritual self and achieve a greater sense of peace. They welcome school groups, religious gatherings, thru-hikers from the Continental Divide, families on vacation, Georgia O’Keeffe art-enthusiasts, you name it.
At one point last week there were four distinct groups on the ranch: a 4-6 grade Montessori school from Phoenix, the Hanover College geology department, an 8th grade Quaker school from Philadelphia, and a collection of spiritual leaders from different faiths all across the world. Many people, myself included, would be worried about the potential conflicts that could arise within such a diverse collection. The spiritual leaders requested that they eat their meals in silence…in the same dining hall as 5th graders on a field trip! But all it took was a simple rope and a sign to separate the dining hall and it worked. No, it better then worked, it flourished. Everybody came together as one, exemplified by a tree planting ceremony.
On Thursday evening, the landscaping department had planned to install two new fruit trees outside the Welcome Center. Most places would simply dig a hole, throw the tree in and be done with it. But here at Ghost Ranch, they held a “Tree Planting Ritual,” where 75 people from all of those different groups joined together for the occasion. Encircling the trees as one unified people, we read excerpts about trees from five different faiths traditions, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Indigenous Australian, each followed by a contemplative moment of silence. To see 10-year-old Cooper next to 80-year-old Pastor Bill, both reflecting on the importance of life and growth and beauty, was a remarkable experience. We took turns tossing in handfuls of dirt, singing “Wade in the Water,” and concentrating positive thoughts to help these trees grow. Those trees, just saplings now, will be here long after all of us expire, providing shade and fruit to the future generations that will walk the Ghost Ranch land. It is wonderful thought.
That is the power of this ranch. There is a peace to it. My Mom, who last visited for her 30th birthday a couple years ago, remembers being totally engrossed in her metal-working class, sitting next to the creek, creating piece after piece of beautiful jewelry that she never thought possible, opting out of her spa-day in the city so that she could stay with her work, with herself and with God. It is a place separated from the hustle and bustle of the “real” world where people can pause, take a breath, and reconnect with themselves as part of a greater world of life and love and spirit.
Here are a few pictures of my stay so far:
Meditation beads and Pedernal
Sunrise from Kitchen Mesa
Hike to Chimney Rock